Q&A: Outgoing Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder George Stern

Andrew Fraieli
Posted 1/5/23

Jeffco Clerk and Recorder George Stern, who was voted into office four years ago after winning against 20-year incumbent Faye Griffin, will be leaving office this month.

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Q&A: Outgoing Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder George Stern


Jeffco Clerk and Recorder George Stern, who was voted into office four years ago after winning against 20-year incumbent Faye Griffin, will be leaving office this month. He sees his job as done, and time for someone new to come in. Colorado Community Media spoke with Stern to ask how he’s changed the office and what the future might hold for him.

Colorado Community Media: You were, as you’ve said, an outsider coming into the position of clerk and recorder. What does that mean and what difference do you think it made?

George Stern: I had never worked in a clerk and recorder office before, I had never run a DMV or helped administer elections before, so I did not have any directly relevant experience and I think that gave some folks some loss when I showed interest in this office.

I think it turned out that, with the right team in place — which we have an awesome one — and the right mindset of leadership to put constituents first and thinking about how we can be constantly improving, that relevant experience is not important. What is important is just running the office effectively and making sure we’re always prioritizing the people we serve.

CCM: You’ve stated that you find politics to be broken. How so, and how within the context of the local office of Clerk and Recorder?

GS: I’m perfectly comfortable saying our politics are broken, I think we see that at every level. But, I think one of the things that I feel strongly about is that too many people today run for office to be someone, not to do something. And, as a result, make a lot of noise, do whatever they can to get coverage of that noise and end up driving us farther apart, making things more divisive, and not really having the government do good for people.

What I try and do in government is focus on doing something. I’m not holding onto the office, or running again for the office — I came into this role to improve this office and I think, thanks to our team, we did a really great job with that, and now I’m moving on. I don’t need to keep holding office just because, I just want to move onto whatever is next.

CCM: You don’t see it as an option to stay for as long as your predecessor?

GS: If I felt like the work I promised the voters required another term or two, I’d be here for another term or two. But, we got done what we set out to get done, so it was time for me to move on.

CCM: How much of the successes you’ve had as Clerk and Recorder did you have in mind before you took the position?

GS: What I had was much less specific and much more high level — it was a method of building a 21st-century Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

We run the DMV. The DMV is, in most people’s minds, the worst government agency that exists, and then you ask them why and it’s long lines, and long waits, and people just having to come in-person and stand around in a lobby and wait for an hour and a half and then be told you don’t have the right paperwork and be sent away and have to come back and do it all over again.

So that’s obviously broken — in the 21st century you should be able to do anything from your couch on a Sunday, watching a Broncos game. 

And so, it was things like that, hearing from a lot of voters that Lakewood, a city of 150,000 people, only had one 24-hour election drop-box. I come in and start asking why, and it’s because we never used data to drive those decisions, we just put drop boxes wherever it was easy, not where the numbers suggested we should. Lakewood now has 10, because it’s a big city and it should.

It was more, ‘this office is in bad need of modernization, so let’s do it.’ Most of the things that we did were not my ideas, they were mostly front-line employee ideas. They’ve been doing this for a long time, they’ve been saying this for a long time, they just didn’t have someone willing to listen to them and put it into place.

Or, in some cases, I was adopting best practices from other counties or other states, or from businesses. So no, I did not come in with most of these ideas, I just came in with a desire to bring things into the 21st century and I looked around and listened to my employees and other county, state and private sector people.

CCM: What do you see as the long-term impact of these changes? Are you hoping someone comes along and improves it even more?

GS: To the second part, totally. I hope that my successor makes things even better. I do not have all the ideas — I did what I said I was going to do, and now it’s time for someone else to come up with new ideas and to put those in place and keep it moving forward.

People’s expectations change, and the way that we can serve constituents changes, and we should keep improving on that.

The crux of what we did was bring that everything had to be done in-person during business hours in one or two locations to everything can be done from anywhere. And that, I hope, will continue a long time. Given where people’s habits are, and what they expect — before COVID, but especially during and after — of being able to do everything remotely, I hope will stay.

CCM: What are your plans for the future?

GS: I wish I knew, but I don’t. Most immediately, I’ve got a two-year-old and a seven-month-old who I’m going to spend a lot more time with, and I’m going to start to figure out what’s next.

I have spent time in both the private and public sectors. I like both. I’m looking for work in a system where I can make an impact and solve programs and so on. I’ll be looking for whatever the next challenge is that lets me do that.

CCM: Anything else you want to tell the people of Jefferson County?

GS: I’ve said it many times, but I always think it’s important to emphasize that the attention is on the elected official, but we’ve got 115 employees here who are awesome public servants, and nothing I’ve done in the last four years would be possible without them. And, most of them are going to stay on long after I’m gone which is a great thing for the county.

They’re the ones doing this work, they’re the ones that helped to make all the improvements, and I have great confidence that they’re going to keep doing that good work.

jeffco, clerk and recorder, george stern


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